1.2 Who is excluded?
The people most likely to be excluded are marginalised groups which are overlooked in the planning and programming of WASH services. Marginalised groups are people who, in the opinion of others, are considered to be insignificant or not important and as a result are confined to the outer limits, or margins, of society. They tend to be the poorest people in a community. You may also come across the terms vulnerable people or disadvantaged people used to describe these groups.
If you were asked the question ‘Who would have difficulty with access to a latrine or a public water point?’ your first answer may well be a person with a physical disability. You may have thought of a person who uses a wheelchair or someone who has poor eyesight. However, these are just two examples of the various types of disability that can lead to exclusion from WASH services. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) defines persons with disabilities as ‘those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in a society on an equal basis with others’ (UN, 2006, p.4). (This definition and the meaning of ‘impairments’ and ‘barriers’, will be explored in Study Session 2.)
Another ‘group’ of people likely to be excluded actually make up half the population of the world! We are talking of women and girls. Women are frequently excluded from planning and decisions that affect their daily lives, even though they are usually the main users of WASH facilities. Traditional and cultural norms assume that men will be the ones with power and influence and consequently, the needs of women and girls are often overlooked. (The roles of women and men and gender issues in WASH are the focus of Study Session 3.)
In addition to these two main groups, other marginalised groups who may be excluded are:
Elderly people: As they get older, women and men may become gradually less able to walk and have increasing difficulty with high steps. In a latrine, they may be less able to squat over the hole.
Small children: WASH facilities designed for the average adult may not be accessible or safe for small children.
Pregnant women: During pregnancy, women may find it uncomfortable to squat and be unable to walk long distances.
People living with long-term illnesses including HIV/AIDS: As well as being physically weak, sick people may need more frequent washing of themselves, their clothes and bedclothes. People living with HIV/AIDS also often suffer from stigma and discrimination by their community.
People living in geographically remote and/or water-scarce areas: Some parts of Ethiopia, particularly in the east and south, have limited natural water resources. This restricts the availability of water for everyone in these areas including those with a nomadic life style.
People living in informal settlements: This group includes street children, slum dwellers and people living in areas where water and sanitation services are not available. Government policy makes it illegal to provide services in these settings.
People living in peri-urban areas and new settlement areas: Many towns are expanding rapidly. New settlement areas frequently lack WASH services because buildings have been constructed before the infrastructure of water supply, pipes, etc. has been developed and installed.
People engaged in marginalised occupations: Some activities such as traditional pottery, working with animal skins, and some textile work (locally called ‘shemane’) may be considered sub-standard and discriminated against.
People staying in refugee camps or institutions e.g. prisons: These places may lack adequate water supplies and sanitation services.
A very important point to remember is that people may belong to more than one of these groups, for example, disabled people include boys, girls, men and women of all ages and they may live in any of the disadvantaged areas identified above. Another point is that, for any individual, their situation may change as they get older or their health status changes.